Two nights running I woke up with my heart going crazy. The first time, as I lay there in the dark, I heard a group of guys outside. They were running, shouting ‘Hurry!’ and ‘We’ll miss it!’ I wondered if I should do something, but I couldn’t hear any fighting or smashing glass. I got up when they were all gone. I kept my light off and parted my blind to look down.
There was rubbish under the streetlamps. There was a big rectangular bin, its lid open, and all around it was a rim of paper and plastic and leaves.
It was August. The slats of the blind left black dust on my hand.
The next night foxes woke me. I knew their swallowed barks but I’d never heard a racket like that before. One night when I was really young, before we moved to the estate, our cat was in heat – my mother explained it to me carefully – and as I was closing my bedroom curtains I saw that the tree at the bottom of our yard was full of cats. They were switching their tails as the light went down. They were all staring, it seemed to me, at me. They started up these boylike horny tom cries.
I listened to the fox calls and wondered if that was the sort of thing going on. If they were courting, in a city tree, or on the roof of a corrugated shed.
There’s a park near my flat with a little playground in it, populated by friendly plastic animals. One’s a fox, with bright red fur and a blue cap. I imagined a bunch of real foxes circling that cartoony figure in the dark.
I went and stood outside. It was much colder than it should have been, like winter. The foxes shut up. Under a lamp was a noticeboard for the tenants’ association. A torn sign about a coffee morning. Recycling. A meeting called by a social capital group called OBYOSS, about regeneration. The name of one of their organisers was
The playground wasn’t far. I went past closed shops and into unlit rows. There’s a robin next to the fox. It’s about the size of a 3-year-old, and dressed like a pirate. There’s a badger and a pig. They’re the same size: they aren’t to scale.
A few cars passed, streets away. There was no rain but the air felt wet. I heard percussion. A knock-knock-knock. Hooves.
The sounds echoed between the damp walls. I thought I could smell pollen. Light was coming up from an unkempt side street. Something glowing. The hooves got louder.
The air was full of dust and little leaves. I had to squint to see.
There was a guttering noise. The shadows of street trees jumped madly. Wavering light reflected in the windows of a shop, in the fronts of the machines that, for a few coins, would spit out toys and sweets.
The light flared and rolled and went out. When I reached the side street I stood with the wind shoving at me. I smelt smoke but there was no fire anywhere. There was no sound.
This piece features in The White Review Anthology, available to buy here.